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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord" (Lk 1:38) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Saint of the Month

Saint Rita

Feast Day - May 22



St. Rita was born as Margherita in 1381 in the city of Roccaporena (near Spoleto, Umbria, Italy). At an early age, she begged her parents to allow her to enter a convent. Her parents (Antonio Lotti and Amata Ferri) arranged her marriage, a common practice at the time, despite her repeated requests to allow her to enter a convent of religious sisters. Rita became a good wife and mother, but her husband was a man of violent temper. Rita eventually bore two sons, Giangiacomo (Giovanni) Antonio and Paulo Maria; and brought them up in the Christian faith which Rita closely followed. Rita tried to perform her duties faithfully and to pray and receive the sacraments frequently. Her husband, Paolo Mancini was known to be a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region of Cascia. He taught their children his own evil ways. After nearly twenty years of marriage, her husband was stabbed by an enemy but before he died, he repented because Rita prayed for him.

Paolo Mancini's brother, Bernardo, was said to have been responsible for continuing the blood family feud in hopes of convincing Rita's sons to seek revenge. Rita gave a public pardon at Paolo's funeral on her husbands' murderers. As her sons advanced in years (one now 16), their characters began to change as Bernardo became their tutor. Later on, Bernardo convinced Rita's sons to leave their manor and live at the Mancini villa and ancestral home. Rita's sons wished to revenge their father's murder. Rita, fearing that her sons would lose their souls, tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. Her sons died of dysentery a year later, which pious Catholic beliefs claim was God's act to take them by natural death rather than risk them committing a mortal sin punishable by Hell.

Shortly after her two sons died, Rita was alone in the world. Prayer, fasting, penances of many kinds, and good works filled her days. After the deaths of her husband and sons, Rita desired to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene in Cascia but was turned away. Although the convent acknowledged Rita's good character and piety, the nuns were afraid of being associated with her due to the scandal of her husband's violent death. However, she persisted in her cause and was given a condition before the convent could accept her: the difficult task of reconciling her family with her husband's murderers. She was able to resolve the conflicts between the families and, at the age of 36, was allowed to enter the monastery. She was admitted to the convent of the Augustinian nuns at Cascia in Umbria, and began a life of perfect obedience and great charity. Sister Rita had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ. "Please let me suffer like you, Divine Saviour," she said one day when she was sixty years old, and suddenly one of the thorns from the crucifix struck her on the forehead, while she was meditating. It left a deep wound which did not heal and which caused her much suffering for the rest of her life. She died on May 22, 1457.

St. Rita is venerated due to various miracles attributed to her intercession, and is often portrayed with a bleeding wound on her forehead, which the Roman Catholic Church claims to have been a partial stigmata.

Saint Rita's tomb with her incorrupt body at the Basilica of Cascia. Veneration The "Acta" or life story of Saint Rita was compiled by the Augustinian priest, Father Jacob Carelicci. Rita was beatified under the Pontificate of Pope Urban VIII in 1626. The pope's own private personal secretary, Cardinal Fausto Poli, had been born some 15 kilometers from her birthplace and much of the impetus behind her cult is due to his enthusiasm. She was canonised on May 24, 1900 under the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII and her feast day was instituted on May 22.

A story is told that near the end of her life, Rita was bedridden at the convent. A cousin visited her and asked her if she desired anything from her old home. Rita responded by asking for a rose from the garden. It was January and her cousin did not expect to find anything due to the weather. However, when her relative went to the house, a single blooming rose was found in the garden and her cousin brought the rose and fig back to Rita at the convent. St. Rita is often depicted holding roses or with roses nearby. On her feast day, churches and shrines of St. Rita provide roses to the congregation that are blessed by the priest during Mass.

In the parish church of Laarne, near Ghent, Belgium, there is a statue of St. Rita in which several bees are featured. This depiction originates from the story of her baptism as an infant. On the day after her baptism, her family noticed a swarm of white bees flying around her as she slept in her crib. However, the bees peacefully entered and exited her mouth without causing her any harm or injury. Instead of being alarmed for her safety, her family was mystified by this sight. According to Butler, this was taken to indicate that the career of the child was to be marked by industry, virtue and devotion.

Popular Christian legends recall when Saint Rita joined the convent of Mary Magdalene, she could not earn her veil of solemn profession because she was previously married and no longer a virgin. In order to test her faith and loyalty to the monastic life, the mother superior asked her to tend a dead stick planted in the ground. Rita tended to this dead stick for many years and watered it daily. Many years later a grape vine sprouted from the stick which continues to be alive today from where its grapes make the wine for the Pope. The plant is also claimed to have miraculous healing powers, especially to its devotees.

She has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a saint of impossible cases. Many people visit her tomb each year. Her body, which has remained incorrupt over the centuries, is venerated today in the shrine at Cascia, which bears her name. Rita is known to be a patroness for abused wives and mourning women. St. Rita is often credited as also being the unofficial patron saint of baseball due to a reference made to her in the 2002 film The Rookie.

 
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37th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 14 - 19, 2017

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Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2017 - December, 2017

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

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DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 11th International Youth Conference - POWER 2017. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. Couples' retreat and children's retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 23 - July 28, 2017

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